Can Dogs Have Artichokes?
Though fresh artichokes can be difficult to get ahold of in some areas (and, if you live anywhere but the west coast, you probably do not think of them as a must-have item in your kitchen), those who are fortunate enough to know these unique vegetables tend to love them fiercely. We enjoy artichokes steamed and salted, but our favorite part, of course, is the heart—artichoke hearts are delicious atop pizzas, tossed in salads, or added into flavorful pasta dishes. Artichokes are also one of the healthiest, most antioxidant foods produced in the United States; the USDA ranked artichokes number seven on their list of the top twenty foods with the highest antioxidant concentrations!
That’s all very well for us and our families, but how do artichokes fit into the diets of our canine companions? Most of us enjoy tossing Fido a few table scraps. So, are artichokes safe table scraps to slip underneath the table? Can you give your dog artichokes?
The answer: yes, dogs can eat artichokes in moderation. Contrary to popular belief, artichokes are in no way toxic to our canine companions—the hearts are safe, but so are the leaves and even the stems! Though any food if it is contaminated or consumed in excess can cause your dog problems, there is no reason to believe that artichokes are a food that may result in toxicity. If you find your dog scarfing down half-eaten artichoke leaves from the trash can, there is no reason to panic.
Benefits of Giving Your Dog Artichokes?
There may even be some benefits to adding artichokes into the repertoire of vegetables you share with your dog. As previously mentioned, artichokes are extremely high in antioxidants. Antioxidants can have powerful protective effects for humans and for dogs because they are thought to destroy dangerous particles called free radicals.
Free radicals are dangerous because they are highly charged, and therefore highly reactive. These highly reactive particles disrupt the ionic bonds inside of the cells they come into contact with, resulting in cell damage that may lead to genetic mutations. These mutations can increase your dog’s risk of the general unpleasantness associated with aging (arthritis, skin problems, cognitive decline, and hair loss), but they can also lead to more sinister health problems such as cancer. By eating more antioxidant-rich foods, your dog can lower the number of free radicals floating around in their body and decrease their risk of developing these types of illnesses.
Several studies have demonstrated the powerful anti-aging effects of antioxidant-rich foods. One study performed on dogs found that the subjects who consumed antioxidant-enriched foods learned complex tasks more quickly than the ones who did not, suggesting that antioxidants protected cognitive functioning. Another study, also performed on dogs, discovered that the senior dogs who consumed high-antioxidant foods were less likely to suffer from the behavioral changes typically associated with the cognitive decline commonly seen as they age.
Artichokes are also great sources of folate, dietary fiber, niacin, and potassium, all of which may reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and increase your dog’s lifespan.
The artichoke’s high fiber content especially, in conjunction with its low calorie and fat content, can have all sorts of health benefits for your canine companion. Since neither dogs nor humans can digest it, dietary fiber adds a lot of bulk to foods without adding any calories. This means that your dog is able to fill up a lot faster (and stay full a lot longer) while consuming fewer calories—which can be important in a time when over half of our dogs are overweight or obese. High-fiber foods can be a great way to keep Fido’s belly full while they are trying to reduce their overall caloric intake.
Things to Keep in Mind
In addition, fiber is great for digestive health. It can prevent constipation by adding bulk and water to stool, which helps keep your dog regular. Dietary fiber is also thought to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of several digestive cancers. This can be especially important for overweight dogs, who are usually at an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular problems.
Though artichokes are not toxic to dogs, it’s important to practice moderation—as with all new foods, dogs who suddenly consume artichokes may suffer from upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. In addition, pet owners should be conscious of what flavors and spices they use to prepare artichokes. Many of the foods commonly cooked with artichokes, such as garlic and onions, are poisonous to dogs. Salt, various sauces, and seasonings should be off the table, too. If you want to give your dog a bite of artichoke, it’s best to keep the added flavors to a minimum.
In conclusion, artichokes are generally recognized as a safe food to feed your dog in moderation. They are high in antioxidants and fiber, yet low in fat and calories, which make them an excellent vegetable to add into your dog’s diet. Just remember to be mindful of what you cook the artichokes with, and as always, practice moderation.